Three Wise Dames

Marketing in the Life Science Industry

Physician, Google Thyself* Part IV April 23, 2010

This is the fourth in a set of posts designed to educate physicians on how their names are being displayed. The education should lead to an evaluation of their current situation and motivation for them to execute basic activities to manage their reputation on-line. Physician Google Thyself Webinar Video on Blip.TV

ENGAGE:

So now you might be asking, “What if someone gives me a low rating or posts an unfavorable review?”

In Barb’s recent post about crisis communications she outlines the importance of actions over words and considering we are talking about health care, it couldn’t be more true.

Is a single bad review a crisis? Let’s put it into perspective using the two primary tenants of social media–authenticity and transparency.

Authenticity:

Is every patient’s symptom/condition easy to treat? Are you a perfect fit for every patient? No, of course not. If someone decides that their experience with your practice was not perfect and they decide to tell the world, that’s their first amendment choice (note: they are breaking their confidentiality on the Internet, not a very smart move from a privacy perspective). Please don’t let one disgruntled patient post discourage you from actively managing your reputation.

Transparency:

If they have a legitimate issue with their experience especially on a “logistical” level (e.g. appointment SNAFU, staff having an off day) then it is worth engaging, privately. If it is a post in an open review field, you could, with full transparency, you post something like:

“Thank you for your honest feedback. Our practice would like to resolve your issue and because of HIPAA privacy laws we are bound to do it privately, please contact XYZ person at our office ASAP. We look forward to hearing from you and correcting our processes to better serve all our patients.”

Best Antidote:

Getting more perspectives–providing lots of good ratings and reviews. Ask your patients to engage on the directories, forums, social networks that have an accurate profile of you (all the stuff you did in Part III). I’d recommend printing a list of rating and review services on the back of your practice business card and handing to especially satisfied patients. Here’s an example from Dr.  Score.** Here’s a post by physician blogger KevinMD from January 2010 which echos this strategy.

A Special Note About Managing Social Media Platforms:

This is an exploding issue that is worth addressing. I will again reference this excellent blog post from Eric T. Berkman from Mass Medical Law Report October 19, 2009. Their first recommendation is to not “friend” patients. I will add by saying if you want to keep a personal presence on social media platforms do so with a strict policy to not connect with patients. You can respond to anyone with a simple message:

“Thank you for your invitation. I value all my relationships highly especially those with patients who have selected me as their health care provider. Due to HIPAA privacy laws, I have decided to decline friend invitations from all my patients. Thank you for understanding.”

Note: setting up a profile for your practice is a good idea if you have a social media strategy as part of your practice marketing plan, but that’s a topic for another day.

Professional networks are very important. Health care professional forums that allow you to keep up with classmates and colleagues is mission critical for managing any successful career.  Linked In is one of the most popular business social networks. Although I am inclined to recommend extending the above policy to patients, I recognize that many patients may start out as professionals in your career network and vice versa. In those cases, I believe as long as you can keep any on-line conversation strictly away from their personal health care issues then linking to them is likely to be a good idea.  If someone unintentionally crosses the line, then use a variation of the above paragraph as a gentle reminder:

“Nice to hear from you. I value all my relationships highly especially those with patients who have selected me as their provider. Due to HIPAA privacy laws, I can not answer your question here. Please contact my office at xxx-xxxx and make an appointment so we can address your health care issue. Thank you for understanding.”

Lessons learned:

  1. You already have a presence on the Internet and you have some control on how you are displayed.
  2. You are motivated to be proactive in increasing traffic to your practice website (or are now convinced you need a site or make improvements).
  3. You’ve made some policy decisions on how to manage social media invitations.
  4. You are not afraid if something bad gets posted because you will a) know about it and b) have a process for managing the situation.

Summary:

Providing quality primary or specialty health care services has always been competitive and health care reform will make it even more so in the coming years. I hope this series has provided you with some knowledge, motivation and peace of mind to efficiently and effectively manage your on-line reputation.

Next: March 2011 Update

Physician Google Thyself Webinar Video on Blip.TV

(C) 2010 eGold Solutions

*************

*Thanks Elizabeth Cooney for the great post title (July 08); great minds think alike.

**Disclosure: There are several customer satisfaction survey tools available and www.DrScore.com is one I am familiar with from my corporate work. In 2007 I constructed a pilot corporate program to measure customer satisfaction amongst a subset of customers in a given specialty. The survey instrument is available in English and Spanish and recently was recognized by ARHQ as a valid tool in measuring patient satisfaction.  Purchasing reports is very affordable at $149 per physician per year.

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It’s Not About What You Say April 8, 2010

The recent explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia is bringing renewed attention to the mine’s owner, Massey Energy.  Like most people, I realize that coal mining is an inherently dangerous job, and unfortunately, accidents happen.  If that were only the story here, it would be sad enough.

Instead much of the attention has focused on the 3,000 plus safety violations Massey has racked up since 1995. Yet, as of April 7, the home page on the company’s Web site still proudly proclaimed that 2009 was “another record-setting year for safety.”  Hard to believe. (As of today, they finally removed that article from the home page.)

In fact, the company’s statements declaring the importance of safety are in direct contrast to its record of egregious safety violations and the reports that Massey’s chairman and chief executive, Don Blankenship, allegedly told workers to ignore the orders of those who instructed them to construct support beams and ventilation shafts for safety purposes and just “run coal.” It is companies like this that give capitalism a bad name.

The Lesson To Learn

What can healthcare companies learn from this tragic incident?  It’s simple. Always remember that actions speak louder than words.

No matter how many times your top executives express concerns for patient safety or piously proclaim that their mission is finding better treatments or cures for disease, if the company is rushing a drug to market before its full side effects are known, it’s a lie. If they are pushing a device through trials and suppressing negative evidence that would keep it from FDA clearance, it’s a lie. If your hospital touts patient safety, but every staff member isn’t following strict protocols to combat healthcare acquired infections, it’s a lie.

Words vs. Action

Communicators use words.  Lots of words.  We draft mission statements, company vision statements, key messages and yes, even positioning statements.  But no amount of words can take the place of action.

Action is key to reputation.  Doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason—even at the expense of short-term profits—builds positive reputations.  And reputations are valuable.  A good reputation adds to the bottom line and helps companies weather the storms of crisis.  Just ask Massey Energy, whose stock has dropped nearly 12 percent and whose credit rating was downgraded below junk.  If that’s not enough to convince you, then just ask the families of those miners in West Virginia.

 

Crisis and Renewal April 5, 2010

You’d have to be living under a rock if you haven’t heard about the marital woes of celebs like Tiger Woods and Jesse James. Much of the debate in recent weeks has centered on the men and rehab for their promiscuous ways.

No matter what your personal opinion on sexual addiction (Is it real or just a convenient excuse for bad behavior?), both men are following the time-tested formula of crisis communications.

Admit your mistake, ask for forgiveness and take action to correct the problem.

According to the theory, following this formula results in new-found grace.  Kinda like going to confession and saying your 10 Hail Mary’s as penance.

But does this really work for companies?  It depends.  And it takes time.  Your audience may not be as forgiving as the masses who idolize celebrities in our pop-culture driven society.

Digging Deeper

That’s not to say that the formula won’t work.  Just that renewal is a process. Rebuilding trust takes time.  Companies need to not only admit that there was a problem, but take the time to peel back the layers of the onion to discover the root cause of the problem.  How did the problem start? Why was the problem ignored?  If the problem was reported, and nothing was done, why was this the case?

Beyond “I’m sorry”

Once the source of the problem is identified, corrective action needs to be put in place to ensure the problem does not happen again.  Communicating this to your employees, customers and influencers may be uncomfortable.  Your legal counsel may want to stifle any communication to minimize risk in potential litigation.  But rebuilding a tarnished reputation is much more difficult than building one from scratch. Companies need to be willing to be open and honest in their communication if they want to regain their audience’s trust.

 

 
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